I took a 17 day honeymoon across Europe. Over a handful of posts, I’ll compile a bit of advice I have, assuming I can reasonably give any advice for each place. One thing that always has driven me crazy about people telling you travel advice or stories is often is it’s all whipped up into a frenzy, mainly saying things like, “It was the absolute best! Do what I did or you wont have an incredible time! You have to go see this or you’ll die!” But, I don’t buy that. Not every place one goes to is the absolute best. Some are average or even bad. That’s fine. But knowing that, I’d also like to provide information on what to avoid, so you have the chance to avoid some of the mistakes I did and make mistakes of your own.
Ashford Castle is a 12th Century castle in Cong, County Mayo, Ireland. It’s been converted to a hotel so the rest of us regulars can feel like royalty for once. Ashford Castle has been visited by many celebrities like King George V, John Lennon, President Ronald Reagan, Ted Kennedy, The Robins: Williams & Wright, Brad Pitt, and more. I am now one of the celebrities who have stayed there.
- Dublin to Ashford Castle.
- 150 Miles, 241 Kilometers.
- 3 Hours
You’re going to have to drive on the left side of the road. This in itself is not hard. But, you’ll probably suffer from driving defaults, the things that you do mindlessly as an American driving, that are very wrong in Ireland. You have to be a bit more mindful and take an extra second to think, “when I back up out of a spot and I want to go left… how do I do that so I end up on the correct side of the road?”
I do recommend taking it slow and patient. I had a part of my drive where someone was tailgating me so god damn hard on a road that was full of twists and turns and hills. The visibly was very low, and it was a narrow undivided road. The driver behind me wanted to go 70 mph. I couldn’t drive that fast, it just didn’t feel safe. So, I didn’t. And he passed me, and flipped me off the first chance he got. Whatever. Drive safe. Drive how you feel comfortable.
Also, one important rule is, there’s no left turns on a red. An Ireland left turn would be like a US right turn, where you could turn right if you could see it was safe. In Ireland, no. You wait for the light.
We had dinner in the Dungeon, and I’ll be honest, I wasn’t thrilled by it. I had a gnocchi that wasn’t incredible, Alyse had… something. I don’t think she was super thrilled either. Whatever, we ate. Maybe we should have gone to the George V Dining Room instead, but the menu seemed similar, and The Dungeon seemed to be 5-10 € less per plate.
Breakfast was included with our stay. They had a large buffet of items, and they also could make you pretty much anything you asked for. The buffet was overwhelming, it had a large selection of pastries, hot items like eggs, bacon and sausages, juices, a and honeycomb for drizzling anything in honey. It even featured a large oatmeal bar with tons of toppings, including whiskey for your porridge, a combination I honestly had never imagined was possible. The staff was very nice and attentive, and got us some to-go coffee’s for our day. This was our best breakfast in Ireland by far.
Highly recommended. I’m an animal lover. If I just got to see some of these birds, I would have been happy. But, raising your arm and having a hawk come flying to land on you is exceptionally cool. We booted up with Wellingtons we borrowed from Ashford Castle, and headed over to Ireland’s School of Falconry that is on the grounds of Ashford Castle. We did the extended 90 minute hawk walk both of us with our own harris hawks, Bagún and Putóg (Bacon and Pudding in Irish). Plus we spent some time with Dingle, a European Eagle Owl. We walked through the wooded areas surrounding Ashford Castle, sending our hawks away, and them coming back to our arms, each time rewarded with a half a mouse that they’d gobble down in one bite. I also loved our guide. I wish I could remember her name, but she was exceedingly cute, and fun to talk with about the birds. Plus she kept yelling all these weird bird calls that we still repeat now cause they’re fun to say.
They have a nice little movie theater at Ashford Castle. They screen movies twice a day, a matinee and an evening show. We swung by after dinner for the evening show. They had water bottles at all the seats, but you could bring in a beverage from where ever you wanted. The Cinema also had a selection of candies, and a small popcorn machine. To be honest the candy was stale, and the popcorn wasn’t good, but we hung out, cause I thought they were going to screen The Quiet Man, a John Wayne film that was shot at Ashford Castle. Alas, they put on Brooklyn, maybe because the Oscars were that week and Saoirse Ronan had been nominated for Lady Bird? Anyway, we watched a few minutes of Brooklyn, because really, how many times does anyone need to see Brooklyn? We snuck out and went to back to our room to watch some Irish TV (it was weird, ask me about it some time).
Also, upon request (when they’re not showing movies), you can play Playstation or Xbox in The Cinema. I’d imagine Ashford Castle may be one of the last places I’d want to play video games, but it’s still nice to have as an option.
Ashford has lovely gardens that were nice to stroll through, complete with fountains, flowers, and castle ruins. It was a bit chilly when we were walking, but it was an enjoyable calming break.
This was a highlight for me. Every morning at 8:30 AM, the two Irish Wolfhounds Cronan and Garvan (nicknames Eeyore and Garvy) go on an hour long walk through the woods with their resident handler. Guests of Ashford Castle are invited to come along, though we’re warned, “this walk is for them, it’s not for you.” The stand off-ish warning aside, the walk was great. The dogs were beautiful and, though their affection not easily won, they were nice enough to pose for some photos with us. It’s another beautiful walk through the woods and around the lake. Here’s a little trick if you DO want to win the dog’s affections, bring some coffee for them. They love coffee, and will drink it right out of your cup if you let them.
If you’re not the walking type, every morning at 10 AM you can find the dogs hanging out in the lobby ready to be pet and photographed.
Ashford Castle sits on a giant lake, Lough Corrib, and the view is just absolutely stunning. To me this was by far the most beautiful part of my honeymoon. I sat there on a bench and just stared out at the lake until I was too cold and hand to go back in to the Castle.
There’s a large billiards room that features a snooker table (you know how to play snooker, right?), a fireplace, cigars, and a few games. They also serve drinks and tapas from 5 PM to 10:30 PM. I didn’t know when we were there but wish I had…
Stuff We Didn’t Do
We weren’t at Ashford Castle long enough to do everything they offered, but some fun things we could have done included, wine tasing in their cellar, afternoon tea, clay shooting, archery, zip lining, boat trips, lake cruises, stand up paddle boarding, tennis, golf, massages, and spa treatments, and who knows what else. We’re gonna go back and do everything, and feel like fucking royalty the whole time.
I have a lot of nice things to say about Ashford Castle. From the first moment, we were treated very well. After driving up to the picturesque castle, and crossing the bridge over the river to get to the castle, we were greeted by a valet who took our car and our luggage. When we checked in at reception they had drinks for us, including a lovely warm cocktail. Our bags were placed in our room before we got there. The room came with a full bottle of sherry that I made quick work of. When we came back from dinner, some of the staff had left us a card congratulating us on our honeymoon along with two mini bottles of Bailey’s Irish cream. They had Wellingtons for us to borrow for our outdoor excursions. The room was great. They sanitized the remote, a thing I never knew how much I wanted until they did it. The TV literally had my name on it. They loaded up our car and parked it out front for us when we were ready to leave. It was a whole experience that honestly felt very well thought out every moment. The staff was nice. The castle and the lake were beautiful. It was a real experience.
Good: Everything we stated above. Lots of good things to say about it.
So-So: It’s very expensive. You get a lot for what you pay for, and staying in Ashford Castle is truly a unique experience, but it is very expensive.
Bad: Nothing bad to say honestly other than we didn’t do as good with the dinner as we would have liked.
- Bring coffee to win over Cronan and Garvan on your morning walk.
- Borrow Wellingtons for any walks around the grounds, no need to dirty up your shoes on vacation.
- Sherry is delicious. It’s also about double the alcohol content of regular wine. Careful drinking a ton of it like I did, or you may end up accidentally day drunk, like I did.